Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf

Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf
captive wolf at Grouse Mountain
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
C. l. crassodon
Trinomial name
Canis lupus crassodon
Hall, 1932[1]
North American gray wolf subspecies distribution according to Goldman (1944) & MSW3 (2005).png
Historical and present range of grey wolf subspecies in North America

Canis crassodon crassodon

The Vancouver Coastal Sea wolf or Vancouver Coastal Island wolf (Canis lupus crassodon)[2] is a subspecies of grey wolf, endemic to Great Bear Rainforest and northern Vancouver Island within the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. It lives in packs of about five to twenty. There are estimated to be less than 180 wolves on Vancouver Island.[3] These coastal wolves are popularly known as Sea wolves.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] Vancouver has two types of coastal wolves: the island or Sea wolves, are different than mainland coastal wolves.[13] The Sea wolf's main food source is seafood, making up 90% of its diet. Salmon accounts for nearly a quarter of their diet. They also forage on barnacles, clams, herring eggs, seals, river otters, and whale carcasses.[14]


These Sea wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest are distance swimmers. There are packs living on the big island off the coast, which is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Bella Bella, and there is no other way for wolves to get there – except to swim. They are not sedentary and many of them migrate through the archipelago, swimming from island to island throughout the year. At times, they follow the salmon, but other times they show up even when there's no salmon to be found. That's because Sea wolves have a diverse diet. A recent study found that it can be up to 90 percent marine-based: lone wolves takedown seals and otters, while packs have been spotted feasting on the occasional whale carcass. The carnivores also, surprisingly, eat shellfish. Using their paws, they dig in the sand for clams, and use their powerful jaws to crack open the shells of mussels.[5] Sea wolves are fast, powerful swimmers and move stealthily in the water, their backs and bodies submerged and with only their eyes, ears and snouts peeking above the surface.[5]

Mythical creatures Gonakadet and Wasgo, found among the Tsimshian, Tlingit and Haida peoples of British Columbia and Alaska, were inspired by these pescatarian Sea wolves.[15]


Sea wolf is recognized as a subspecies of Canis lupus in the taxonomic authority Mammal Species of the World (2005).[16] Studies using mitochondrial DNA have indicated that the wolves of coastal south-east Alaska are genetically distinct from inland grey wolves, reflecting a pattern also observed in other taxa.[17][18][19] They show a phylogenetic relationship with extirpated wolves from the south (Oklahoma), indicating that these wolves are the last remains of a once widespread group that has been largely extirpated during the last century and that the wolves of northern North America had originally expanded from southern refuges below the Wisconsin glaciation after the ice had melted at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. These findings call into question the taxonomic classification of C.l. nulibus proposed by Nowak.[18] Another study found that the wolves of coastal British Columbia were genetically and ecologically distinct from the inland wolves, including other wolves from inland British Columbia.[20] A study of the three coastal wolves indicated a close phylogenetic relationship across regions that are geographically and ecologically contiguous, and the study proposed that Canis lupus ligoni (Alexander Archipelago wolf), Canis lupus columbianus (British Columbia wolf), and Canis lupus crassodon (Vancouver Sea wolf) should be recognized as a single subspecies of Canis lupus.[19]

In 2016, two studies compared the DNA sequences of 42,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in North American grey wolves and found the coastal wolves to be genetically and phenotypically distinct from other wolves.[21] They share the same habitat and prey species, and form one of the study's 6 identified ecotypes - a genetically and ecologically distinct population separated from other populations by their different type of habitat.[21][22] The local adaptation of a wolf ecotype most likely reflects the wolf's preference to remain in the type of habitat that it was born into.[21] Wolves that prey on fish and small deer in wet, coastal environments tend to be smaller than other wolves.[21]

In 2016, a study of mitochondrial DNA sequences of both modern and ancient wolves generated a phylogenetic tree which indicated that the two most basal North American haplotypes included the Mexican wolf and the Vancouver Sea wolf.[23]


The Vancouver Sea wolf is of medium size, measuring roughly 26 to 32 inches high, 4 to 5 feet from nose to end of tail, and weighing roughly 60 lbs. It is usually a mix of grey, brown, and black. Occasionally, they are seen pure white.


  1. ^ Fred H. Harrington (1982). Wolves of the World: Perspectives of Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Noyes. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-8155-0905-9. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Wolves". Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  3. ^ "Vancouver Island Wolf". Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  4. ^ "Meet the Rare Swimming Wolves That Eat Seafood". 3 August 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b c "The amazing sea wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest". 8 July 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Meet Rare Sea Wolves Who Live Off The Ocean And Can Swim For Hours". Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  7. ^ "The Extraordinary Sea Wolves". 2 October 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  8. ^ "Takaya the Sea Wolf: A Story of Evolution and Climate Change". Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Canada mourns Takaya – the lone sea wolf whose spirit captured the world". The Guardian. 27 March 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  10. ^ "In Search of the Elusive Sea Wolf Along Canada's Rugged Coast". 1 October 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  11. ^ "These Rare "Sea Wolves" Have Researchers Utterly Captivated". 9 August 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  12. ^ "Call Of The Coastal Wolves - British Columbia sea wolf mini-documentary". Retrieved 19 February 2022 – via YouTube.
  13. ^ "The Coastal Wolves of British Columbia". 11 May 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  14. ^ "Meet the Rare Swimming Wolves That Eat Seafood". National Geographic. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  15. ^ Faris, Peter (25 September 2018). "Rock Art Blog: Wasgo/Gonakadet – Sea Wolves of the Pacific Northwest Coast". Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  16. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 575–577. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. url=
  17. ^ Weckworth, Byron V.; Talbot, Sandra; Sage, George K.; Person, David K.; Cook, Joseph (2005). "A Signal for Independent Coastal and Continental histories among North American wolves". Molecular Ecology. 14 (4): 917–31. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02461.x. PMID 15773925. S2CID 12896064.
  18. ^ a b Weckworth, Byron V.; Talbot, Sandra L.; Cook, Joseph A. (2010). "Phylogeography of wolves (Canis lupus) in the Pacific Northwest". Journal of Mammalogy. 91 (2): 363–375. doi:10.1644/09-MAMM-A-036.1.
  19. ^ a b Weckworth, Byron V.; Dawson, Natalie G.; Talbot, Sandra L.; Flamme, Melanie J.; Cook, Joseph A. (2011). "Going Coastal: Shared Evolutionary History between Coastal British Columbia and Southeast Alaska Wolves (Canis lupus)". PLOS ONE. 6 (5): e19582. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...619582W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019582. PMC 3087762. PMID 21573241.
  20. ^ Muñoz-Fuentes, Violeta; Darimont, Chris T.; Wayne, Robert K.; Paquet, Paul C.; Leonard, Jennifer A. (2009). "Ecological factors drive differentiation in wolves from British Columbia" (PDF). Journal of Biogeography. 36 (8): 1516–1531. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2008.02067.x.
  21. ^ a b c d Schweizer, Rena M.; Vonholdt, Bridgett M.; Harrigan, Ryan; Knowles, James C.; Musiani, Marco; Coltman, David; Novembre, John; Wayne, Robert K. (2016). "Genetic subdivision and candidate genes under selection in North American grey wolves". Molecular Ecology. 25 (1): 380–402. doi:10.1111/mec.13364. PMID 26333947. S2CID 7808556.
  22. ^ Schweizer, Rena M.; Robinson, Jacqueline; Harrigan, Ryan; Silva, Pedro; Galverni, Marco; Musiani, Marco; Green, Richard E.; Novembre, John; Wayne, Robert K. (2016). "Targeted capture and resequencing of 1040 genes reveal environmentally driven functional variation in grey wolves". Molecular Ecology. 25 (1): 357–79. doi:10.1111/mec.13467. PMID 26562361. S2CID 17798894.
  23. ^ Ersmark, Erik; Klütsch, Cornelya F. C.; Chan, Yvonne L.; Sinding, Mikkel-Holger S.; Fain, Steven R.; Illarionova, Natalia A.; Oskarsson, Mattias; Uhlén, Mathias; Zhang, Ya-Ping; Dalén, Love; Savolainen, Peter (2016). "From the Past to the Present: Wolf Phylogeography and Demographic History Based on the Mitochondrial Control Region". Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 4. doi:10.3389/fevo.2016.00134.